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News Release

SIU Closes Investigation into Grey County Firearm Death

Case Number: 10-PFD-079

Mississauga (1 October, 2010) --- The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has reviewed the circumstances around the May 10, 2010 firearm death of 24-year-old Darren Burnside.  Ian Scott, the Director of the SIU, has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to believe an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer committed a criminal offence in this case.

The SIU assigned four investigators and three forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident.  The investigation found that the following events took place on May 10:
  • In the early morning hours, Mr. Burnside left home on a farm tractor and drove to a residence on West Back Line approximately two kilometres away from his home.  
  • Upon arrival at the residence, Mr. Burnside began shooting at the house, and managed to shoot out two sliding patio doors on the ground floor.  An occupant of the residence reported the shooting to the OPP, and indicated that he did not know the identity of the shooter.  
  • Mr. Burnside drove the tractor away from the residence and went south on West Back Line.  He stopped in another driveway on West Back Line south of Sideroad 80, and again began shooting randomly.  At the same time, several OPP officers, including the subject officer, began to assemble at and near the intersection of West Back Line and Sideroad 80, approximately one half kilometre to the north of where Mr. Burnside was now situated.  The intersection and intersecting roads have no streetlights and there are no homes in the immediate vicinity.  As a result, it was extremely dark.  
  • Mr. Burnside left the driveway and drove the tractor north on West Back Line toward Sideroad 80.  Officers at the intersection took cover, and one officer abandoned his cruiser. Mr. Burnside shot at the cruiser, and then rammed it into the ditch.  He stopped the tractor beside the cruiser, and began yelling that he knew police were in the area.  He fired his long guns randomly, and some officers reported hearing gunshots and hearing rounds going over their heads.
  • The subject officer, who had taken cover behind a large rock at the southeast corner of the intersection, then moved away from the intersection to the east and concealed himself along a tree line.  Two of the officers he was with moved north of the intersection and concealed themselves in a field.  All three were armed with C8 rifles.  One of the officers who concealed himself in the field heard a series of references from Mr. Burnside that he “wanted” a particular individual.  The other officer heard Mr. Burnside say “I have night vision.”
  • The subject officer fired three shots from his rifle, two of which struck Mr. Burnside.  At 4:31 a.m., the subject officer communicated that the suspect had shot at him and he returned fire.
  • Officers did not approach the tractor until daylight. Emergency Response Team officers approached and discovered Mr. Burnside apparently deceased, on the ground beside the tractor.  Near the body were a .22-calibre rifle, and numerous spent and unspent shell casings.  In the open tractor compartment were a shotgun, a box of shotgun shells and a spent shotgun shell, more spent and unspent .22-calibre shell casings and two half-emptied bottles of liquor.  
  • The post-mortem disclosed that Mr. Burnside received two gunshot wounds, either of which could have been fatal.

Director Scott said, “In my view, the subject officer was justified in using lethal force against Mr. Burnside under either ss. 34(2) or s. 27 of the Criminal Code.   Mr. Burnside was firing randomly at officers while driving a tractor in complete darkness, and appeared to be aware that there were officers in the area.  He represented an imminent threat to all officers in the immediate vicinity and made no signs he was prepared to surrender. Those officers were in no position to escape the random shootings by Mr. Burnside.  Accordingly, the subject officer was justified in the use of lethal force against Mr. Burnside for the purpose of either self-defence or the defence of those officers in the vicinity who were in immediate danger.”

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence  in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
  • report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General. 

Monica Hudon, monica.hudon@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342